It’s all nice and good that our friends on Occupy Wall Street are above institutional politics. It’s fine that they want to maintain a Don Quixote air and struggle with windmills. It’s great that they have a vision and have hope in a dream.
But nothing burns out more quickly than a vision. A vision unrealized becomes a hallucination.
Occupy Wall Street has been successful in rallying people around an amorphous vision—now the question is, can that vision be translated into tactics, goals, and agendas?
The reality is that the world changes through institutions and organizations. And as much as you want to ignore it institutions are the mechanisms by which we change the direction we move. Intuitions and organizations are effected by pragmatic politics.
In any organizational or institutional setting, weather you’re an entrepreneur, a mid-level manager, a CEO, or a political activist, leadership is about getting beyond being occupied with your vision and dealing with nuts-and-bolts.
If you want to change the school district, if you want a better education for your kids, get involved in school politics.
If you want the pot holes covered in Brooklyn, see your city councilmen.
Politics is the way we impact change through institutions and if there’s a lesson that Occupy Wall Street should learn from the Tea Party—it’s that occupying without leadership gets you nowhere.
The Tea Party has achieved its success not simply because of its ideology, but because it was pragmatically savvy. This pragmatic political savvy is somewhat lost on Occupy Wall Street.
Put it simply, what’s needed is a concrete agenda that’s directed at specific individuals or institutions that can make a difference. This emphasis on leadership as a pragmatic skill seems to be lost in many sectors in our society. It’s as if we believe that vision and aspiration will move things ahead.
Steve Jobs has often been cast as a wondrous visionary. But it wasn’t his vision alone that brought us the ipod, the powerbook, or the ipad. It was his pragmatism. It was his ability to create coalitions, persuade people, manage his projects, and move things ahead.
In corporate settings as with political movements the challenge is to know how to move your agendas ahead. It’s an art that we don’t see exercised in Washington and it’s an art that few of our young entrepreneurs appreciate. It’s an art that we have to bring to the forefront if anything is going to get done.
Until then we’re all just be occupying space.